As the organ system responsible for controlling our movements, our senses, and our consiousness, the nervous system must be capable of rapid information processing and rapid transmission of that information throughout the organism. To meet these demands, complex networks of nerve cells, like electrical networks in computers, use electricity for information processing and transmission. Transmission occurs at specialized sites of contact between two nerve cells, called synapses, and is typically mediated by a complex process called chemical synaptic transmission. Thus understanding chemical synaptic transmission is essential to an understanding of fundamental mechanisms underlying essentially all neural processes. In the nervous system of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, electrical signals are transmitted in a manner quite similar to that in vertebrates. Importantly, Drosophila is also amenable to a powerful combination of experimental methods including classical genetic analysis, recombinant DNA technology, and functional analysis of chemical synaptic transmission. The work proposed here utilizes a remarkable class of Drosophila mutants in which the function of a specific protein can be turned off at any desired time simply by changing the temperature. The ultimate goal of this work is to understand the role of these proteins in chemical synaptic transmission by asking how the process changes when their function is perturbed.
The progress made in Drosophila is expected to lead directly to a better understanding of our own nervous system. This is emphasized by the recent completion of the Drosophila genome sequence, which has further established striking evolutionary conservation of genes involved in the function and pathology of the human nervous system. The combination of this strong evolutionary conservation and the remarkable power of the fruit fly as an experimental system provide a unique opportunity to investigate the molecular mechanisms of neural function.
|Effective start/end date||7/1/00 → 6/30/07|
- National Science Foundation: $755,664.00